ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Carlin Urges Auto Industry To Help Curb Cyberattacks.

CNN  (4/12, Bruer) reports that at a Society of Automotive Engineers event in Detroit, Assistant Attorney General John Carlin expressed concerns about the growing risk hackers pose to cars. Carlin said that online connectivity in cars is expected to increase to around 75 percent by 2020. Carlin highlighted, “The same innovations that revolutionize the auto industry create vulnerabilities if not carefully deployed. Connectivity creates access. Potential access to vehicle control systems could be used against us to undermine the very safety the technology was designed to provide.” CNN mentions that last month, the FBI, DOT, and NHTSA released a joint announcement warning that cars are “increasingly vulnerable to remote exploits” through various technologies.

The Detroit News  (4/12, Ramirez) adds that Carlin “called on the private sector to work with the federal government and law enforcement agencies to fight cyber attacks. ‘Sharing information and intelligence between law enforcement is not enough,’” Carlin added, “With the ingenuity and development taking place in your hands … the infrastructure of the internet in your hands, to combat threats against it, we’re going to have to work together. That means … telling you what we see in terms of threats and calling on your ingenuity to figure out ways to protect” against them.

Bloomberg News  (4/12, Strohm) reports that Carlin told reporters, “This will be the next battlefront.” Carlin explained, “Right now what we have is this combination of carrots and sticks, and there’s not a one-size-fits-all protocol that’s been mandated by statute.’”

The Detroit Free Press  (4/12, Baldas) reports that “while there are no known cases of terrorists hacking a connected car, the Department of Justice official stressed that automakers need to try to stay one step ahead of any potential hackers and ask: ‘‘What are the bad buys thinking? We’ve seen them be creative before,’” Carlin said. The Free Press adds that “during his speech, Carlin reminded the audience about last year’s intentional hacking of a sports utility vehicle by security researchers, who hijacked a Jeep Cherokee over the Internet.”

Higher Education

UNC-Chapel Hill Has Highest Percentage Of Women In Graduate Engineering Programs.

The US News & World Report  (4/12, Smith-Barrow) “Short List” reports on the ten graduate engineering programs with the most women. Leading the list is UNC-Chapel Hill, where 68 our of 112 students—60.7 percent—at the master and doctoral level were women in fall 2015. Up next are University of Texas Health Science Center—San Antonio and Santa Clara University, which had 41.5 percent and 37.8 percent of female students in fall 2015. The report found that among 193 engineer schools, just 24 percent of students were female, compare with 34 percent among the top 10 schools.

ED Planning To Forgive Student Debt For 400,000 People With Disabilities.

The Washington Post  (4/12, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that ED is working on identifying and forgiving the Federal student loans of “nearly 400,000 permanently disabled Americans.” The Post explains that “anyone with a severe disability is eligible to have the government discharge their federal student loans,” and says that ED “is now taking it upon itself to identify eligible borrowers and guide them through the steps to discharge their loans.” The Post quotes Under Secretary Ted Mitchell saying, “Too many eligible borrowers were falling through the cracks, unaware they were eligible for relief. Americans with disabilities have a right to student loan relief. And we need to make it easier, not harder, for them to receive the benefits they are due.”

The AP  (4/12, Kerr) reports that the forgiveness will help protect “their Social Security payments,” saying ED “on Tuesday announced a new process to better identify hundreds of thousands of borrowers who are eligible” for the relief. Mitchell “says too few borrowers have been taking advantage of the program because they may not know about it or the process of applying was too complicated.” ED is sending letters to likely candidates, the AP reports, noting that they owe some $7.8 billion.

The Wall Street Journal  (4/12, Mitchell, Subscription Publication) says the move, which would eliminate $7.7 billion in student debt for thousands of severely disabled people, comes in response to complaints that bureaucratic problems resulted in the improper garnishment of some borrowers’ disability checks.

MarketWatch  (4/12) reports that the individuals identified by ED “won’t have to go through the typical application process for receiving a disability discharge, which requires sending in documented proof of their disability. Instead, the borrower will simply have to sign and return the completed application enclosed in the letter.” The article notes that of the nearly 400,000 borrowers in question, some 179,000 are in default, and “more than 100,000 are at risk of having their tax refunds or Social Security checks garnished to pay off the debt.” Salon  (4/12) and BuzzFeed  (4/12) also cover this story.

Center for American Progress Report Faults ED’s Oversight Of For-Profit Schools.

The AP  (4/12, Horwitz) reports that in 2013 ED found that Corinthian Colleges Inc. “had systematically raised students’ tuitions without properly telling them,” and then “demanded a refund — but only for the handful of students whose records had led to the discovery.” The AP says that ED “never investigated further,” and says the review “was one case in which the government failed to identify widespread misconduct at Corinthian.” The AP reports that the Center for American Progress has released a new report titled “Looking in All the Wrong Places” indicating that such “flaws in the government’s oversight of student aid were routine.” The report concludes that ED’s “reviews were understaffed and too narrowly focused, failing to identify misconduct already publicly documented.” The AP reports that ED spokeswoman Dorie Nolt said the report “did not reflect more recent improvements,” quoting her saying, “Already this year, we have denied the recertification of several institutions which misrepresented themselves to students and taxpayers alike. But we know we must do more end predatory practices that harm students.”

UC Berkeley Cutting 500 Positions To Cope With Budget Deficit.

The Washington Post  (4/12, Anderson) reports that UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced on Monday that the school “plans to cut about 500 staff positions during the next two years, a workforce reduction of about 6 percent that comes as the prestigious public flagship is moving to erase a large budget deficit.”

The San Francisco Chronicle  (4/13) reports that Dirks sent an announcement to Berkeley employees saying the cuts “will amount to ‘a modest reduction of 6 percent of our staff workforce.’” The cuts will not impact faculty, but residential student staff “were told by managers two weeks ago that they should prepare to be laid off.”

Yale Progresses In Limiting Investments That Don’t Reduce Greenhouse Emissions.

The New York Times  (4/13, Fabrikant, Subscription Publication) reports Yale’s chief investment officer David Swensen on Tuesday released a letter to the school’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility informing them that the university has made progress in working with the firms that manage its $20.8 billion endowment to “avoid investments that did not take sensible steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Swensen said the school asked that its managers assessed the financial risks associated with energy companies, such as the potential implementation of carbon taxes.

Engineering Informing Liberal Arts Education
ASEE and education expert Sheila Tobias have launched a series of case studies on engineering habits-of-mind enhancing a liberal arts education.  Funding came from the Teagle Foundation.

Research and Development

Student Inventors Awarded Lemelson-MIT Prize.

The Boston Globe  (4/12, Burke) reports three inventions by MIT students won the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, which awards $15,000 to “undergraduate- and graduate-student inventions in health care, transportation, food and agriculture, and consumer devices.” Inventors from 77 universities entered the competition and MIT students placed in six out of seven categories. The winning MIT students designed a “camera that is sharper than the human eye, an electric car transmission, and a fully-automatic health-food restaurant.” The other winning inventions were a learning aid for those with autism, a mixture to alert healthcare workers what they’ve sanitized, sensor-laden gloves that translate sign language into spoken words, and a self-contained vegetable grower.

Oregon State University Engineering Faculty Receive Combined $4.3 Million In Awards.

The Corvallis (OR) Gazette-Times  (4/13) reports eight engineering assistant professors at Oregon State University were honored with $4.3 million in awards for their teaching and research initiatives. Six faculty members received National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program awards totaling $3.3 million, and two other faculty members received awards worth $1 million through the Officers of Naval Research Young Investigators Program.

Scientists Defend Tax-Funded Research.

ABC World News Tonight (4/12, story 8, 1:25, Muir) reported US tax money is being spent on research projects that include “analyzing the mating habits of goldfish” and the “biomechanics of why walking with coffee can cause it to spill.” Sen. Jeff Flake considers the research wasteful spending, but scientists are defending the studies, saying the goldfish study seeks to better understand sensory systems and the coffee research “takes a broader look at low viscosity liquid dynamics.” Furthermore, “scientific organizations say you simply never know where the next big breakthrough will come from.”

NASA Supersonic Jet Research Technique Highlighted.

Gizmodo  (4/13) reports that NASA aims to bring in “a new age of supersonic jets,” adding that in order to do so safely, “there needs to be research and lots of it.” The article highlights Onen research technique, which NASA says uses so-called schlieren imagery “to visualize supersonic flow phenomena with full-scale aircraft in flight.” According to the article, the images “will help analyze the location and strength of shock waves, so NASA engineers can develop aircraft that can minimize those effects.”


Report: Gender Pay Gap Grows As Tech Companies Expand.

The Chicago Tribune ’s (4/12, Elahi) “Blue Sky Innovation” digital site reports that an analysis by San Francisco-based recruiting company Hired found that when tech companies expand, the gap between what they pay male and female software engineers also increases. The report, which was released Tuesday in honor of Equal Pay Day, is available because it is more difficult to hide different salaries in smaller companies. Additionally, smaller startups “might not have the funds to offer higher base salaries to more desirable candidates.” According to the report, the gap was about 4 percent “at boot-strapped and seed-stage companies.” increased to 8 percent when companies reached the Series A level, and dropped to 7 percent at Series B companies and major corporations.

Industry News

Ford Reveals $1.2 Billion Redevelopment Plan In Dearborn, Michigan.

The Detroit Free Press  (4/12, Snavely) reports Ford on Tuesday revealed plans to redevelop roughly 70 disconnected buildings in Dearborn that house more than 30,000 employees. The estimated $1.2 billion investment that has been in planning for more than three years will renovate or construct “more than 7.5 million square feet of work space, studios and labs” to give Ford employees “the work environment and technology necessary to design and develop cars of the future.” Ford declined to say whether it will seek financial assistance from Michigan.

Engineering and Public Policy

Legal Challenge To Obama’s Clean Power Plan Examined.

In a piece for Scientific American  (4/12), Climate Central’s Bobby Magill writes that the Clean Power Plan, “the Obama administration’s most sweeping climate change policy, is being challenged in federal appeals court and its future is expected to hinge on the outcome of at least one court decision – and possibly two – over the next year.” The US Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington is scheduled to hear arguments on June 2, and groups on both sides of the issue filed amicus briefs at the end of March. Magill writes that the briefs “provide a telling glimpse into each side’s arguments and whether the Obama administration has the authority to enforce the plan.” Magill then examines several key issues in the challenge.

GAO: EPA Has Failed To Safeguard Drinking Water From Energy Wastewater.

In a report to Congress, the GAO says the EPA has failed to adequately safeguard drinking water supplies “from the increasing amount of wastewater generated by the oil and gas industries,” the Palm Springs (CA) Desert Sun  (4/12, James) reports. According to the audit, the agency “has not consistently carried out oversight of programs that regulate injection wells where oil and natural gas companies send streams of wastewater into the ground, and therefore is unable to properly assess whether sources of drinking water are being protected across the country.” In addition, the audit said the EPA “has failed to adequately collect information from state and regional regulators about inspections and other enforcement actions.”

Wyoming Feeling Pinch From Falling Energy Prices.

The New York Times  (4/13, Healy, Subscription Publication) reports while the US economy “is posting steady gains and adding jobs,” in Wyoming, “the recession is slinking back.” Falling oil and gas prices, coupled with “bankruptcies in the coal industry, have pummeled Wyoming’s energy-dependent economy and eroded a thin safety net for poor and older residents.” Officials “estimate that energy companies have shed some 5,500 jobs – a huge number in a state with 580,000 residents,” and the state’s “unemployment rate has climbed by 1.2 percentage points over the past year, more than in any other state.”

House Panel Advancing Bill To Boost Fossil Fuel Research, Cut Renewables.

The Hill  (4/12, Cama) reports that House Republicans aim to “give more money to federal fossil fuel research and less to renewables” as part of a $37.4 billion appropriations bill proposed Tuesday. Research and development related to fossil fuels would get $645 million in fiscal 2017 under the bill, a $13 million increase from the 2016 level, while DOE programs for renewable energy research and development “would be slashed by $248 million under the 2016 level.” Fossil fuel programs, the Appropriations Committee said, “will help the country make greater use of our rich natural energy resources and help keep down energy costs,” while renewables “have already received significant investments in recent years.” The committee’s energy and water subcommittee will meet Wednesday to vote on the spending bill.

Energy Department Looking To Update Efficiency Rules For Walk-in Coolers, Freezers.

The Hill  (4/12, Devaney) reports the Energy Department “is looking to strengthen the efficiency rules for walk-in coolers and freezers one more time before the end of the Obama administration.” The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE “last updated the energy conservation standards for these appliances in June 2014.” DOE, at the time, “estimated the rules would cost industry $33 million to comply but save consumers nearly $10 billion over the course of the next three decades.” The “efficiency rules for walk-in coolers and freezers do not go into effect until next summer — but the Energy Department is already looking to update the standards.”

Republican Support Weakens For Renewable-Energy Tax Breaks In FAA Bill.

The Wall Street Journal  (4/12, Rubin) reports that Republican support for renewable energy tax breaks in a Senate aviation bill has dried up under pressure from Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners, and groups tied to the Koch brothers. Supporters of the renewable-energy breaks are expected to try again later this year. The Hill  (4/12, Lane) reports that Sen. John Thune told reporters on Tuesday that the FAA measure will now only contain standard revenue provisions. “It just got too complicated and it was taking too long,” Thune said. “A decision was made to go with a clean finance title, the way we’ve always handled FAA reauthorizations in the past.”

Xcel Plans To Build Colorado’s Largest Wind Project.

The AP  (4/12) reports that Xcel Energy said Tuesday it plans to build a 600-megawatt wind project in eastern Colorado that would be the state’s largest. Cost and siting details were not disclosed, but David Eves, president of Xcel’s Colorado operation, said more details would come in May. The Denver Post  (4/12, Finley) reports that wind power in Colorado is rising and that Eves said, “We’ve cultivated wind as our most cost-effective renewable energy option because we recognize that this source of energy is not only a benefit to the environment but also a major economic driver for the state.”

The Denver Business Journal  (4/12, Proctor, Subscription Publication) reports that Xcel Energy will work with Vestas Wind Systems to build the 600-megawatt wind project. Denmark-based Vestas will build the 300 turbines for the project at its factory in Brighton.

Elementary/Secondary Education

“Hot Wheels” Curriculum Proves Successful In Los Angeles Schools.

Education Week  (4/12) in its “Curriculum Matters” blog carries a post by guest blogger Debra Viadero on the Speedometry curriculum, designed by “researchers at the University of California’s Rossier School of Education” to “motivate students to really engage in learning about the STEM subjects” by making use of “hot wheels” cars and tracks. The curriculum teaches “about potential and kinetic energy, gravity, and velocity,” and is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards. It was sponsored by the Mattel Children’s Foundation, and has “been tested with more than 1,600 students in 59 classrooms in east Los Angeles.” The testing revealed that the students in the “hot wheels” unit reported more positive feelings about the program and also scored somewhat higher on the test at the end of the unit than students using the school system’s regular curriculum. The effect was found among both girls and boys.

CTE Concentration May Boost Chances Of On-Time Graduation, Employment, And College.

Education Week  (4/13, Gewertz) reports on a study of career-tech-ed in Arkansas published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, finding “that students who ‘concentrated’—took three related courses focused on one industry—were 21 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school in four years than their peers who did not, and were just as likely to go to a four-year college.” It also found slight overrepresentation of “low-income students, students with disabilities, and low and middle achievers” “among students who took seven or more CTE courses.” Still, the study found “middle and high achievers are not shying away from it.” A study by The Education Trust, by contrast, “found that only 8 percent of students complete a course sequence that prepares them well for both college and jobs.” The Fordham study found improved on-time graduation rates among both male students (23 percent), and female students (19 percent) for those who took a three course concentration.

Illinois High School Robotics Team Advances To FIRST Lego League World Championship.

The Aurora (IL) Beacon-News  (4/12) reports the “Gear it Forward” robotics team from Oswego East High School “is heading to the FIRST Lego League world championship” in St. Louis. The team was “ranked third in the Midwest regionals,” and also received “the Chairman’s Award” as the team that “best embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST.”

Marquette University Holding Programming Contest For High School Students.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  (4/12, Gallagher) reports on a “computer science programming contest” being held Wednesday at Marquette University, at which over 250 high school students will compete, many of them coming from schools with computer science instruction supported by “a three-year, $1 million National Science Foundation grant that Marquette received in 2014.” Dennis Brylow, associate professor of mathematics, statistics and computer science at Marquette, said that because of the grant, “We are on pace to reach our goal of doubling the number of computer science teachers in Wisconsin over three years.” The contest is being “funded in part by a $35,000 grant from Google.”

White House Science Fair To Focus On Projects To Fight Climate Change And Cancer.

ABC News  (4/13, Chadbourn) reports on the sixth annual White House Science Fair, which will showcase projects from over 100 students. The fair will focus on “ways to fight climate change and cancer.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Ford Successfully Tests Self-Driving Car At Night.
State AGs Call On ED To Drop Embattled Accreditor.
SAE Holding Annual World Congress.
Engineer: Claims That Autonomous Vehicles Will Prevent 90% Of Accidents Aren’t True.
Battles Expected At Senate And House Energy And Water Markups.
Virginia High School STEM Students Win Award For Trail Safety Design.

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